Choreographed, Conceived & Performed by Farah Yasmeen Shaikh
Written & Directed By: Matthew Spangler
Music Director & Original Score by: Salar Nader
Location: Houston TX. & Boston MA
The Forgotten Empress is dynamic dance drama based on the history and life of Empress Noor Jahan exploring her strength and influence in 16th century Mughal India, and how she maintained her delicate power in a male dominated empire, only to be almost forgotten in the latter years of her life and in death.
Through an enthralling performance of South Asian classical dance, live music, multimedia, and theater, acclaimed Kathak artist Farah Yasmeen Shaikh, director Matthew Spangler, and musical director Salar Nader, along with their team of world-class musicians and actors, deliver the spectrum of emotions, relationships and occurrences surrounding this powerful woman.
Farah Yasmeed Shaikh
A rising name in the world of dance, known for her powerful and evocative storytelling, technical precision, delicacy and grace, Farah Yasmeen Shaikh is breaking new ground, bringing her clairvoyant voice to the contemporary Kathak stage.
Trained for two decades by Kathak icon, the late Pandit Chitresh Das, Farah was a lead dancer in the Chitresh Das Dance Company, and is now an internationally touring soloist, performing to sold out shows of her original choreographic works, most notably, The Twentieth Wife telling the tale of Empress Noor Jahan, through a full-length performance of dance, theater, live music, and multimedia, based on the novel by author, Indu Sundaresan.
The Early Years
In 1971, Farah’s parents, Amjad and Najma Noorani moved to the United States from Karachi, Pakistan, both of whom were born in Bombay, India and moved to Pakistan post-partition of India and Pakistan.
Born in 1977 in Salinas, California, Farah, along with her siblings were always encouraged by their parents to follow the path that called out to each of them. Each child ended up in a career in social service, which for Farah, has been through the arts.
When Farah was in her first year of college, she was eager to continue dancing, of which she had been doing since the age of 5, so she enrolled in an unexpected course of Indian classical dance offered at her school, San Francisco State University. Upon hearing who taught the course – Pandit Chitresh Das – Farah’s parents encouraged to take the class knowing of his mastery in the form. This decision in January of 1996 would forever shape Farah’s future.
In addition to continuing to take the kathak course at SFSU, and eventually becoming Pandit Das’ teaching assistant, Farah enrolled in her GuruJi’s institution, Chhandam School of Kathak. In 1998, Farah joined Pandit Das’ professional company, the Chitresh Das Dance Company (CDDC) and began her career as a performer of kathak. Shortly thereafter, Farah began to teach in Chhandam, and now boasts over 15 years of teaching experience, overseeing multiple branches of Pandit Das’ institution and working with students of all ages.
In 2007, Farah debuted as a kathak soloist, and has since performed to great acclaim throughout the U.S. and India, and is also the recipient of numerous grants and awards based on her merit and potential for future excellence in the field of kathak.